After spending the past half-year with our 2012 VW Passat during its Six-Month Road Test, we're pretty familiar with its vast talents. Chief among them: a huge back seat, one that's easily the biggest we've seen in a mid-size sedan, one that's made even more useful by tall, wide rear doors.
Rear-seat room is an important metric for four-door sedans, for reasons you can guess and some you might have to ferret out by audience. Family sedans need big back seats for easy child-seat installation; the more upscale, older-skewing sedans need them for easier entry and exit for passengers of a certain age. Domestic sedans require them so they can sell to fleets--you know, the kind with plastic dividers and hostile passengers on their way to confined quarters? And still other drivers need roomy four-doors for work duty, everything from real-estate showings to client ferrying.
We took note of the expanse of real estate in our first review of the then-new 2012 Passat--and it's something we've been trying to connect to, well, anything else that's on the market today. You'd think that even in the recent past, there would be big cars to link to the Passat in terms of rear-seat space. But in reality, among full-size and mid-size four-door sedans, they're becoming a rarity. Honda's stepped back from upsizing the Accord and is now reversing course. The formerly full-size Hyundai Azera and Toyota Avalon are downsizing and upstyling, while the Nissan Altima's in more of a holding pattern.
Bigger clearly was one of the high priorities on VW's PowerPoint file when the U.S. Passat was being developed--but it's by no means the default move in every other automaker's playbook.
So what, exactly, does the Passat compare itself to, now that its XXL competition is on a slimming regimen? Here's a quick scan of the automotive landscape past and present, so you can see where the Passat's back-seat dimensions fit in the grander scheme--even against some unlikely cross-shops, and one or two museum pieces, just for fun.
Your reference point is our 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI, with its 110.4-inch wheelbase, and 39.1 inches of rear-seat legroom:
2013 Honda Accord EX-L
2013 Honda Accord EX-LEnlarge Photo
In its last generation, the Accord drew plenty of criticism for getting too big, though it didn't necessarily feel bloated. In its latest redesign, the 2013 Honda Accord now sits on a 109.3-inch wheelbase, and sports 38.5 inches of rear-seat leg room. It's a solid second-place finish to the Passat's back-seat space, even though it's more than four inches shorter overall.
2013 Ford Fusion
2013 Ford FusionEnlarge Photo
We're pretty enamored of the new Fusion's looks and dynamics, especially since they don't come at the expensive of rear-seat room. The 2013 Fusion rides on a 112.2-inch wheelbase, longer than that of the Passat, but nets out with slightly less rear-seat leg room, at 38.3 inches. Many enthusiasts will find the difference meaningless, once they've pitted the cars back to back through the same set of esses. WIth Hybrid fuel economy EPA-rated at 47 mpg, excellent steering and ride damping, the Fusion's more European in feel than the Passat. Wait, did we just say that?